Climate

Assumptions about environmental stasis are embedded in historical usage of the word climate. The first recorded use of the term in English is by medieval geographers, who wrote about a series of fixed bands or belts stretching across the Earth’s surface like parallels of latitude (OED). These belts were believed to divide the habitable world into seven distinct climatic zones, which astrologers assumed corresponded to the seven known planets. This idea of a static geography undergirds a now archaic use of climate to refer to particular regions of the earth, as well as the current usage of the term to name prevailing weather conditions in particular regions of the world. Richard Hakluyt’s The principall navigations, voiages, and discoveries of the English nation (1589), contains the first use of climate in this sense recorded by the OED: “New found land is in a temperate Climate.” This use of …

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